Oct 3, 2016
Chicago teachers voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike, 96% yes, with 90% of the teachers voting.
A strike vote is not a strike. It’s not even a clear statement that the teachers have really decided to strike, nor that the union leadership is ready to lead a strike. But it is a statement that the teachers are angry – and with very good reason.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his cronies point out that the Chicago Public Schools are broke. True enough. But then they have the nerve to blame the teachers for the schools’ problems!
No, as the teachers’ union points out, the school board is “Broke on Purpose.” Emanuel and his buddies are the ones who give tax deals to every big company that operates in Chicago, including corporations like United Airlines, Boeing, and MillerCoors. They are the ones that set up all kinds of “creative” financing deals that funnel the city’s tax money to big banks, especially but not only Bank of America. They are the ones who set up a slush fund controlled by the mayor that gets a big share of property tax money – money that should go to the schools and other services. These so-called “TIF” funds then wind up going back to real estate developers.
So yes, the schools are broke, because the people who run Chicago have stolen the money that they need, and given it to the billionaires.
The schools are already seeing the consequences. Chicago schools have faced three rounds of layoffs and budget cuts just this year. The school board is setting up schools to close by starving them of funds so badly that parents send their students anywhere else, leaving some neighborhood schools with very few students. They’ve cut Special Education to the bone, and tried to discourage parents from getting their children enrolled.
The school board claims teachers must give up concessions, to prevent further cuts. For years, the board has paid a part of the teachers’ pension payments, instead of giving the teachers raises. Now they say they want teachers to pay this part out of their checks – which would amount to a 7 percent pay cut, more than wiping out the so-called raises they are offering teachers. But it’s obvious from everything city officials have done that they do not want to take from the teachers, in order to give more to the schools. No, they want to take from the teachers to give more to the wealthy.
It’s up to the teachers to decide if they are ready to fight. And it’s up to parents and other workers in Chicago to decide if they will join in. A fight would not be easy. But it’s obvious that without a fight, the education for working class kids in Chicago and the standard of living of teachers will both continue to get worse.